Dave Bing would like to clarify his position on rookie Cade Cunningham.
Bing, a Detroit Pistons Hall of Famer who made seven All-Star games during his 12-year career from 1966-78 and was the mayor of the city from 2009-13, received some blowback from fans earlier this season after weighing in on Cunningham’s game.
During a game Dec. 13 vs. the Brooklyn Nets, Bing joined the Bally Sports Detroit telecast andhad kind words for Cunningham. But Bing said he didn’t believe Cunningham was a player the Pistons could build around.
“We were worried about him early on in terms of his shooting, but he’s playing very, very well,” Bing said in the second quarter of an eventual 116-104 loss to the Nets. “So I think he’s going to be an All-Star caliber player, I don’t think he’s a guy you can build a team around — we still gotta get that guy, we don’t have it yet, in my opinion. I also think our weakness is in the backcourt; we gotta get a good point guard.”
In a phone interview with the Free Press on Tuesday, Bing made it clear he’s a huge fan of Cunningham, who missed Tuesday’s game in Miami with a non-COVID illness but is otherwise in the midst of his best stretch of his young career. (He’s averaging 23.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists in seven March games, helping the Pistons win three.)
“Cade is a hell of a player,” Bing said. “He’s going to be an All Star for years to come. I think he should be Rookie of the Year. He’s unique in that he really doesn’t have many weaknesses. Here’s a guy who consistently will get 20 points a game, six or seven rebounds a game, five or six assists a game. There are not many players in the NBA that can do that, and he’s doing that as a rookie. I think he has a very bright future, and I surely wish him the best of luck because now, as he’s growing, this organization is going to do well by drafting him No. 1.”
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So if Cunningham is so talented, why did Bing feel he isn’t a player the Pistons can build around? Bing, who the Pistons drafted second overall in 1966 out of Syracuse, said he wanted to manage the high expectations surrounding the Pistons’ highest pick since Grant Hill third overall in 1994.
“I think it was unfair for outside sources in particular, to put a tag on Cade when he first came in as the franchise player,” Bing, 78, said. “I think that’s unfair to him. Here’s a kid, 19 years old when we drafted him, one year of college, and was only halfway through his first year in the NBA. And that’s a hell of a lot of pressure to put on a young guy. My position is that let him grow as a person, let him develop as a player, before anybody puts that kind of tag on him. Because the adjustments that we all have to make when we come into the NBA, people don’t realize that there are a hell of a lot of adjustments that we have to make. You come into a city where you don’t have any friends, your teammates, have to understand their personalities. There are so many factors that a young player has to deal with when they first come in.
“He had one year. Expectations are through the roof. It’s hard to live up to that when you’re that young. You’ve gotta give a person a chance to develop as a player, to grow as a person, and that’s really what I was saying back then. People try to take everything in a negative vein. I don’t have anything negative to say about him at all.”
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As for his comment the Pistons still need a good point guard, Bing said he likes that Cunningham, 20, is unselfish and has thrived as a go-to guy. But he still wants the Pistons to find another guard who can penetrate and break down the defense. Cunningham is one of Detroit’s better players at getting downhill, but he’s only shooting 55.9% at the rim — which ranks 79th out of 81 players with at least 200 attempts — and is averaging a meager 2.4 free throws per game.
Point guard Killian Hayes, the Pistons’ No. 7 pick in 2020 who was moved to the bench in January in favor of Cory Joseph, also has similar weaknesses finishing at the rim and drawing fouls.
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But Bing, recently named one of the NBA’s 75 greatest players of all time, likes what Cunningham has done this season and is excited to see what he will do in the future.
“He’s growing,” Bing said. “Every game, he seems to get a little better. Not only do I like him because he’s unselfish and will pass the ball, but he’s also got the ability when the team really needs a bucket, or they need somebody to make a play, he’s the go-to guy. He has performed at a very, very high level.”
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.